Tag Archives: improve marriage

6 Habits for Happy Lives & Marriages

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

I came across this awesome visual from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) on 6 Habits of Happiness Worth Cultivating, and I think it has great applications for marriage as well. Cultivate these 6 habits for a happier life and a happier marriage.

  1. Practice Kindness. Yes, it’s an important life habit, but it also makes you feel good. “Altrustic acts light up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex,” according to GGSC. Many people stop there, but they end up being kinder to the checker at the grocery store than to their spouse at home. Or at least we would never say things to our friends that we are willing to say in anger to our spouse. Ouch. Kindness will pay great dividends in the long run. Say “please” and “thank you” for starters. Offer to help, especially when your spouse is stressed. Give an extra hug and kiss, just because.
  2. Drop Grudges. As I wrote in First Kiss to Lasting Bliss, forgiveness is just as much a gift for the giver as the receiver. Offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us takes away the bitterness that can rob us of health and wellbeing. This goes double in a marriage, when grudges are very detrimental. If a past hurt from our spouse is important, discuss how you feel hurt and explain what would make you feel better. But figure out how to get past it.
  3. Get Moving. GGSC reports that “regular exercise increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety and stress, and may well be the most effective instant happiness booster of all.” Why not do something active with your spouse? You’ll both benefit from the increased oxytocin release, you’ll both be doing something good for your health, and you’ll be spending quality time together.
  4. Give Thanks. Lots of research has shown the benefits of living with gratitude, and I’ve written a good deal about it. “Regular expressions of gratitude promote optimism, better health, and greater satisfaction with life,” says GGSC. Research also shows that couples who express gratitude toward one another and who spending time being thankful for their spouse and thinking positively about him or her are also more satisfied with their relationship. Read “Two words that have improved my marriage.”
  5. Keep Friends Close. “Make time for those closest to you,” says GGSC. That means regular, dedicated, uninterrupted face time with your spouse. No excuses. Remember that your spouse can’t meet all your emotional needs, so spend time with close friends as a way to boost your happiness and bring a brighter you to your marriage.
  6. Pay Attention. The idea of being more mindful as a means of boosting immunity and reducing anxiety is not one commonly discussed. But in our world of multitasking and ubiquitous social media, it’s so key. How many minutes a day to we spend completely engaged with our spouse, listening or discussing meaningful issues in our lives?

What are the most important habits you feel cultivates your personal happiness and your relationship happiness?

Order in time for Valentine’s Day: First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage , which tells the stories of a dozen amazing couples who used adversity to improve their marriage. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you already have the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Great Sources for Marriage Tips

If you haven’t had the chance to check out The Long Haul Project, it’s a great blog for marriage insights. It’s a husband and wife team of Tom (the Brit) and Melissa (the Yank), who are on a journey to save their marriage by meeting married couples in cities around the globe and asking them to share their secrets. Recently, they were kind enough to interview me about First Kiss to Lasting Bliss and the insights I had gained in my research for my own marriage. Read the interview here.

Another great source for marriage insights is Gina Parris of Winning at Romance. Gina doesn’t mince words and shares LOTS of romantic insights to make your marriage sizzling. She recently asked me to write about Making Long-Distance Love Work, something I know a bit about as the wife of a pilot. I share insights from a military couple who was separated during war time. Gina has lots of audio programs, articles and podcasts to improve the intimacy in your marriage, so check it out.

One more link for you, Beverly Willett from Huffington Post recently interviewed me on the topic of “Is Lasting Bliss Really Possible?” With all the year’s headlines about marriage being obsolete, it’s a valid question to ask. Add your opinions, whether you agree with my take or not.

I’ll be sharing more good blogs for you as we enter the new year. There are lots on my blogroll if you’re looking for other great sites to help you keep your marriage solid and growing. If you’re not growing, you’re drifting.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Sony, Nook or PDF. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Does Your Marriage Have Areas for Improvement?

If you are hoping to improve or even maintain your relationship in 2012, it may help to know what the major sources of conflict are. What do couples fight most about, and can you assess your personal behavior in these areas to ensure you are not contributing to that conflict?

The Science of Relationships provides the Top 15 Sources of Conflict in Relationships with a brief explanation of each that I think is very helpful. It includes everything from being inconsiderate to poor grooming. First, ask yourself what the most common conflict topics are in your relationship, then check the list. Be honest about an area in which you might be able to improve. This isn’t the time to blame your partner, but rather to look a way you might take some responsibility for a bit of self-improvement. Personally, I hope to improve my daily efforts toward generosity this year.

For some additional helpful reading, The Generous Husband’s Paul Byerly has done a good job dissecting The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2011—research completed by the National Marriage Project. This is the research I wrote about recently in which generosity in marriage is said to be the best indicator of a very happy marriage. There’s much more to the study. Paul explains the findings on Money and Housework, which show happier husbands and wives are part of couples for which household chores are shared equally. In addition, the study showed that financial pressure and debt decrease our marital happiness. No matter what our income, increased consumer debt is a hindrance to a happy marriage, particularly for women. He also reports on the impact of family and friends in marriage, which reminds us we should be connecting with those who support our marriage, and preferably spend time with others who have strong marriages. Finally, this is an interesting bit about the importance of shared faith within a marriage. If these reports are interesting to you, check out the full study results. (See link at beginning of paragraph.)

What area of your marriage could use some tweaking—or a complete overhaul—this coming year? Perhaps how you communicate, how you manage your finances, how you share your faith, how you share housework or raise your children, how you manage your time or your home, how you show affection, your sexual satisfaction with one another, making time to spend each day with each other? The options are nearly endless, but discuss one area with your partner in which you both will make an effort to improve, will seek out tools for improvement, and will provide honest and productive feedback with each other. If you have particular topics you would like more information about, please message me or leave it in the comments and I will provide expert insights and research-based tips for you.

For all those who celebrate the Christmas holiday this coming week, I wish you all the blessings and joy of the season. I hope for you a holiday with minimal stress and abounding love. And I wish peace and joy to all of you and to your families and friends. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Arvydas Kriuksta courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

First Kiss to Lasting Bliss Interview

Thanks to Mrs. Levine of Whispered Between Women for interviewing me about my upcoming book, FIRST KISS TO LASTING BLISS: Hope & Inspiration for Your  Marriage. You can visit her lovely site and read the full interview here. I am re-posting the highlights here at her suggestion, with a link to the full interview:

Mrs. Levine: I’ve been following Lori Lowe’s blog Marriage Gems for a couple of years and find her advice on marriage truly wonderful and inspiring. I took the opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions on how to help a marriage last a lifetime.

Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?

Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.

 
Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?

Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.

Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?

Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining?  Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.

If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.

Read More for the rest of the Q&A.

Receive book information at www.LoriDLowe.com, and check out the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage will be available Dec. 8, 2011.

Two Words That Have Improved My Marriage

Early in my marriage, my husband and I were not as focused on gratitude as we are today. Back then I did not thank him for mowing the lawn, and he did not thank me for cleaning the house. As a result, deep down, I think we both felt less appreciated than we should have. It’s not that we didn’t appreciate each other, but we had the mindset of “that’s just her job” or “that’s just his job.”

Now that we understand the impact that gratitude can have on a marriage, we make every effort to say “thank you” many times a day. It’s more second nature than an extraordinary effort, but when I make dinner, he always says, “Thank you for dinner,” (and encourages the kids to do the same). And when he’s been out collecting leaves for the tenth time this fall, I always compliment him on how nice the yard looks and how hard he worked. We say thanks for everyday things, like going to the grocery store, emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, or taking the kids to tennis lessons. He thanks me for holding down the fort while he’s traveling, and I thank him for helping me with a computer problem.

Expressing gratitude doesn’t just make the recipient feel good, it makes the giver more aware of all the actions and efforts that the spouse is doing. It makes you both feel better about your relationship, and it adds more positivity to your interactions.  (Remember, Dr. John Gottman says it takes five positive for every one negative interaction to keep marriage strong. Read about the 5:1 ratio.)

Don’t wait for your spouse to start thanking you for all the great stuff you do. Just start thanking your spouse for all the little things that often go unnoticed, and the important stuff, too: for being a good provider, for taking good care of the kids, for getting the car oil changed, for making sure you have clean underwear in your drawer, for making you feel loved, for keeping the house organized…Surely you can think of a few things to thank your spouse for today.

A special “thanks” and “happy birthday!” to my dear hubby who has been especially helpful to me recently as I’ve been more busy than usual with my book coming out.  It’s hard to believe we’ve now been together for half of our lives. (Well, almost for me.) Read about the power of gratitude in reducing rates of breakups.

With Thanksgiving coming up this week in America, you might even consider writing a thank-you toast to publicly honor your spouse and/or other family members for how they have encouraged you or made your life brighter. I know we have many readers outside the U.S. who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving; don’t wait for a holiday to express your thankfulness.

Send a text or e-mail, leave a note, or just tell your sweetheart “thank you.” Share one thing in the comments that you are thankful for today from your spouse.

Photo by Felixco, Inc. courtesy of freeditigalphotos.net

A Surprising Way to Boost Creativity in Your Life and Marriage

Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series

Researchers have found a surprising path to boosting creativity:  Allow yourself to be bored. Think about it. When you finally allow yourself quiet time to shower, take a walk or a drive, garden or just sit in thought, creativity tends to strike in the form of a new idea or a solution to a nagging problem. (And by nagging problem, I don’t mean your wife.)

“Boredom is linked to creativity,” said Genevieve Bell, PhD, an anthropologist and director of interaction and experience research at Intel.  She adds that when we are constantly consuming media with all of our mobile devices—iPads, Kindles, smart phones, etc.—we don’t allow our brains enough time to develop new ideas. Even standing in line, we’re making calls or playing Angry Birds. It’s no wonder our lives feel so chaotic.

I enjoy spending most of my workday in silence to keep distractions to a minimum. Others think music is just the boost they need. Allowing your body to move while your mind is free may be an even better idea. Whether it’s gazing at nature, or gazing at our navels, we don’t have to feel guilty about these seemingly unproductive activities, as they just might precede a great idea.

Bell says we need to take time to stop and reflect, carve out technology-free time at work and at home, and unplug on weekends and vacations. Enjoy spending time with loved ones, doing nothing in particular.

Find Creative Marriage Solutions

Creativity boosts can obviously help us in our work and personal challenges, but they can also be used to solve problems in your marriage or family. For instance, if you’ve been arguing over two alternatives with your spouse, you may not see a third alternative that would satisfy you both. Without giving yourselves time to reflect, you may not even consider other options. Be creative, and consider every single possible solution.

Sometimes couples get in a funk and aren’t even sure why. Allowing your brain time to think without outside distractions can sometimes clarify the issues. Perhaps one person is feeling unappreciated or unsatisfied in their work, and they are projecting their frustrations on the marriage. We can’t begin to solve our problems without seeing them clearly, and we can’t see them clearly without down time to sort through our internal frustrations.

Don’t use all your downtime to focus on your problems, though. It would be much more helpful to use that downtime to focus on what you are grateful for, and to consider your spouse’s best attributes. Keeping these positive thoughts present in your mind will boost your marriage.

The research is a bit surprising in one way, though. Previously, I have read that boredom is terrible for marriages, and that we should work to do new, exciting, and fun activities together. I still think this is advocated and can tremendously help bond a couple. However, some alone time with nothing planned, or even some couple time to just hang out, can be very fruitful in a strange way. If you use that time to cuddle on the couch or connect about real issues rather than be bombarded with distractions, it’s an investment in the marriage, not a detriment. But then make time to plan something exciting as well.

Michele Weiner-Davis, a bestselling author and marriage counselor, has said one of her key pieces of advice for couples to improve their marriage is simply to spend more time together. However, it’s not really time spent together if one of you is updating her Facebook status every 15 minutes and the other is checking college football scores during dinner. Spend more dedicated time with the one you married, and it will pay dividends.

Do you have a tech-free room or designated time at your home? Do you experience any boredom in your day, or is it packed with activity from the time you rise until the time you hit the pillow?

LINKS:
Read this thoughtful post from Simple Marriage called “We have trouble communicating.” It’s not that we have trouble communicating, it’s that we have trouble with the message our spouse is communicating.

Photo by Graur Codrin courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Source for post: BNET.com

Are You Jealous of Your Friend’s Divorce?

Did you know divorce is contagious? If you have a divorced friend, you are 147 percent more likely to get a divorce! One reason is that when a friend or family member divorces, it normalizes divorce and makes it seem more acceptable. Sometimes, they can even make it look fun. But there’s nothing fun about divorce, especially after the first three months of freedom wear off.

I was asked by fellow blogger Stacy Geisinger (StacyKnows.com) to write about these feelings of jealousy which can be common among the still-married friends. These friends may see the new doors and possibilities open for the divorced person, as well as their new found lack of responsibilities and the freedom to go and do as they please.

I don’t have the experience of being a divorced woman (although I’ve had friends and family divorce), but the following article that was recently published on Huffington Post is a must-read for anyone even remotely considering divorce: Wasbeens and Wives: 7 reasons to stay married. It’s funny and serious at the same time.

Don’t be tricked by the shiny new opportunities of someone with divorce papers still hot off the printer. Here’s what your friends probably won’t admit:

1. Going out with single friends is fun, but just for a short while. After that, they realize that true companionship has a lot more going for it than the singles scene does. Loneliness is not just about being alone; it’s about not having a mate to share the joys and sorrows of life and child rearing.

2. Being a single parent is harder than almost any other job. Helping kids through a divorce is even more difficult than negotiating with your ex. Children of divorce die an average of five years earlier than people who grew up in intact families. And, they have more academic, mental, emotional and health problems. The instability of divorce affects the foundation of their identity, and that instability is never completely repaired. Even if your kids are in college, a parental divorce can be very difficult for them.

3. When a divorced woman is ready to date again, she often finds herself dealing with many of the same issues with men as she did with her ex, plus some new ones. You don’t get rid of your relationship problems with divorce; you just trade them for new problems. (Read We all married the wrong person.)

4. Most divorcees are not living high on the hog with fat alimony checks. In fact, their standard of living generally declines if they weren’t the breadwinner. The fights about money after the divorce are usually much worse than the ones that occurred during the marriage. Now, there are just more people involved.

5. Down the road after the anger has dissipated, two-thirds of divorced people admit they and their spouse didn’t work hard enough to save the marriage. They face lifelong wounds and often regret the decision. In fact, they are often jealous of you, the married friend, the one with a husband waiting for you at home after you go out for drinks with your girlfriends.

The truth is when we have problems in our marriage, we are quick to blame our partner and quicker yet to rationalize why we are blameless. But if we make the decision to focus on pleasing our partner and meeting our own needs (instead of making our mate responsible for meeting all of them and “making us happy”, the relationship dynamic changes and improves.

In part 2, I will address how to keep your marriage interesting and lively so that you aren’t tempted to be jealous when a friend “breaks free” of their marriage.

I wrote this as a guest post for StacyKnows.

Part 2–How to keep your marriage exciting so you aren’t tempted to be jealous when a friend “breaks free” of their marriage.

Have you ever been jealous of a single friend’s life?

Photo by wikipedia